A Yorkshire firm has been ordered to pay £229,970 to a former client over mishandled property transaction advice almost 10 years ago.
Mansion Estates Limited accused Hayre & Co and its principal Rajinder Hayre of fabricating a series of attendance notes and exchanges following the 2007 sale of a £1.7m property in Bradford.
The claimant said Hayre had discharged its retainer negligently in respect of a sub-sale and cost it £18,000 through wrong advice about the amount of stamp duty land tax payable. During a four-day hearing in the High Court (Chancery Division) in November, Mansion Estates alleged that a letter and attendance notes to support Hayre’s case were made up.
Hayre denied attaching the wrong plan to a TP1 transfer document and asserted that the correct advice was given with regard to the sub-sale of a section of land.
In Mansion Estates v Hayre & Co (a firm), His Honour Judge Saffman (pictured) said several aspects of the claimants’ case troubled him. These included that he had overvalued the original claim, alleged a conspiracy between the solicitor and lender and had taken a ‘scattergun’ approach to his allegations.
But the judge said the evidence of Hayre concerning the land claim ‘troubles me even more’. The court heard Hayre had sent a fax regarding another matter during the time his notes had said he was in consultation with Mansion Estates. A further plea that timings were unreliable because he did not wear a watch were ‘far from convincing’, said Saffman.
Hayre, the judge contended, had recalled details of meetings from eight years ago ‘with the sort of detail one might expect from a witness recounting things that had occurred only recently’.
Such were the extent of omissions when the claimant requested Hayre’s supporting documents that they believed he had ‘something to hide’.
Copies of files were not released until after a threat to report the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and the originals were stolen in a burglary reported in February 2012, although nothing else was taken. Hayre asserted that he suspected the claimant of arranging the burglary, a view that Saffman found ‘incredible’.
The judge said the claimant had surmounted the ‘inherent improbability’ hurdle and he made a ‘sad and highly regrettable finding’ that an attendance note from 2 November 2007 misrepresented the true position.
Saffman gave judgment to the claimant for £211,500 – the lost value of the land caused by the filing of the wrong plan. He also ordered Hayre & Co to pay £470 in costs of attempted cure and £18,000 in lost stamp duty savings.